Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sailing Toward New Zealand

Sunday January 31, 2016

Today, like the previous four days, was spent at sea – needlepointing, eating, exercising, attending lectures, etc. This week we will be in New Zealand so I am looking forward to that. Not too much else to report. The Internet connection on the boat continues to be ridiculously slow if not completely useless.

We did have one exciting thing happen last week while visiting the Cook Island of Rarotonga (part of New Zealand). We had to use tenders to get onto the island and although the water did not seem particularly rough there were large swells that made disembarking in the usual spot off shore not possible. So, after several attempts at setting up the tender platform (in the front, in the back, on one side, then the other) our Captain decided that we would try the other side of the island. The new location didn’t have much in the way of services or amenities. Also, the cut in the coral reef that allows access to the dock was very narrow. Nevertheless, the ship’s crew was able to set up the tender platform and so after a two-plus-hour delay the tendering process finally began.

We had signed up for a tour – Pa’s Eco Adventure. Pa, the tour guide, is, I would imagine, a bit of a local legend. Certainly he was a character – no shirt, sarong, dread locks. First stop was his house where he pointed out several plants/fruits and explained their medicinal value – sort of. Mostly though we just stood around looking at one another and listening to him ramble on about how he gets twenty-hour advance notice of any earthquakes on the planet (that’s twenty hour notice not twenty four hour notice) and how he was given the heart of King Kuhmehahmeha (sp? – you know, the one from Hawaii). I told you he was a character. After a couple hours of wasted time, I had had enough and when a minibus left to take anyone back to the dock Russell and I were on it. At the dock, we discovered the exciting thing that happened (no I have not forgotten that I promised you something exciting) – namely that one of the tenders that was delivering passengers from the boat to the shore ran aground on the coral reef. And that is where it was when we arrived. Stranded about two hundred yards off shore. Loaded with passengers.

After several minutes, the Captain arrived on shore and with a group of officers and some supplies they waded out to the boat. The area between the boat and the beach was not too deep but it was filled with coral so it wasn’t particularly easy to navigate. Eventually, they started to offload passengers using a zodiac/raft-like thingy while others simply hopped in the water and walked ashore with or without assistance. Fortunately for us another tender came along after about forty-five minutes and we high-tailed it back to the ship. Later in the day people had to wait on shore for as much as two hours.

We received varying reports on how the passengers on board the stranded boat fared. Some people said that everyone took it in stride while another person we talked to (who was clearly none too happy with her experience) said that some people were panicking. We did hear a funny story about a passenger who was worrying about the boat sinking.
That’s when some wag observed wryly that “we are already on the bottom!”

Eventually the boat was pulled off the reef by a small tugboat and it returned to the boat still with some passengers aboard and several holes in its bottom and so much water on board that it took a good twenty plus minutes to drain. Awfully glad we were not on that ill-fated boat. That’s one story that I will gladly do without.

The only other exciting thing to happen in the past several days was our crossing of the International Date Line. Never have I done that before and so I didn’t really know how it works. Well, allow me to explain. You cross the Date Line from east to west and you advance your calendar by one day. Clock stays the same, just the date changes. You cross the Date Line from west to east you turn your calendar back by one day. Again, clock stays the same only the date changes. In our case we were left to wonder where did that day (January 28th) go? Well, we missed it! Simple as that. Of course, in our case we will get that day (or most of it) but in one-hour increments as we pass from time zone to time zone. So, we used to be several hours behind American time but now we are many hours ahead of you all. It’s very confusing but it seems to be working – at least the sun sets now at seven thirty-ish (p.m.) and rises at six a.m. so that’s as it should be. I am sure that comes as a great relief to you as it does to us.

I am hoping to have cellular service in New Zealand and so will be able to update the blog with photos from Tahiti, Moorea and the Cook Island of Rarotonga. I appreciate your patience and I am hoping that we won’t have this issue again for at least awhile because we will be relatively close to land with no long stretches “at sea”.

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